Let’s Consider Reopening Oahu’s Trail Systems - Honolulu Civil Beat


About the Author

Hannah Hubanks

Hannah Hubanks is an environmental scientist and vice chair of Sierra Club Oahu Group.


As an avid hiker and trail runner, I cover a lot of mileage across Oahu each week. Trails provide exercise, a place to appreciate things bigger than ourselves, and a way to maintain mental health and wellness in a time when we are bombarded with global challenges.

As of this week, access to those crucial aspects of public health are unavailable to Oahu residents; yet the risk to public safety by public trails is undemonstrated.

As the vice chair for Sierra Club Oahu Group and as a very active outdoor recreation community member, I speak on behalf of many who have contacted me, as well as the organizations I engage with regarding this recent restriction. I ask the mayor to strongly reconsider opening Oahu’s trail systems.

While many higher risk activities are still being permitted, all trail access on Oahu has been closed in an attempt to improve our current spike in COVID-19 cases. During the spring’s total lock down, all trails were open and no cases were traced to trail users.

Yet now, despite better understanding of the greater virus transmission risk indoors, outdoor public access is curtailed while many private indoor facilities remain open. Begging the question, why are trails being targeted when indoor settings aren’t?

A panoramic view of the Aiea Loop Trail. Oahu’s trails were recently closed due to the surge in CIVD-19 cases. Was that such a good idea? Hannah Hubanks

The Texas Medical Association developed an activity risk scale and many of Oahu’s remaining permitted activities are listed as high risk. Meanwhile, walking or running on a forested trail (and especially if a person does so alone) are ranked at lower risk.

I encourage a credible response to how the risk posed by trails was estimated, as I have not once seen a group larger than 10 people on a trail in 2020 and believe risky gatherings on trails are unlikely. I also typically see hikers, including myself, with a mask to wear when passing other runners and hikers.

Even without these considerations, trail users are a very low risk in such a socially distant activity, outdoors. Public safety is of utmost importance yet the prioritization of what remains opened, while lower risk activities are being closed, is concerning.

Low-Risk Activity

Benefits of trail use go beyond having a space to use our bodies and keep them healthy against disease. To be a cooperating citizen fighting COVID-19 surges, we are staying home and reducing our exposure to friends and social circles.

We are working from home and not traveling. We are limiting our activities to those most essential. Many are caring for children without extra support. Many are not working at all and are struggling to make ends meet. Some have suffered loss and significant new life stressors.

I know many residents, including myself, have found trails to be a safe escape from the home and a healthy way to boost morale against what we face now and ahead during a global pandemic. The regular trail users I’ve spoken with, from all walks of life, have expressed great disappointment in this loss.

Without trail access, not to mention parks and gardens, I have concern that residents will still be inclined to get out of the house yet be restricted to permitted indoor facilities that pose higher risk to themselves and the public.

We want to maintain vigilance in promoting public health during this time — encouraging safe activities and enforcing what is not. It’s important to, at the very least, ask the mayor to communicate why trails are closed and how closure is a coherent strategy for public safety.

As it looks now, it’s a removal of one of the lowest risk activities available to residents which also benefits the well-being of the population. It’s my hope that trail access will reopen in a timely manner. Yet my concern is that it will persist, and it’s unclear why we have closed such a low risk and high benefit activity.

Currently, actionable ways to express concern you may similarly have is to sign this petition, contact the city’s COVID response team, and the mayor’s office.

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About the Author

Hannah Hubanks

Hannah Hubanks is an environmental scientist and vice chair of Sierra Club Oahu Group.


Latest Comments (0)

We used to go hiking several days a week. We don't have access to a large yard or patio. Parks are closed. I’m not a surfer. I don’t kayak or canoe. My six year old daughter doesn’t swim very well. I’m afraid to take her cycling on Honolulu's deadly streets. Today I had to find a patch of asphalt on which to play with my daughter, all the while worrying about neighborhood traffic or aggravating the potentially uptight people (who now seem to be everywhere) when our ball got into their yard.

paulo · 10 months ago

lol you guys are forgetting abt the road and sidewalks, and for those looking to for simple relaxing excercise, trust me it’s easy to Walk or run on straight level ground. there are many quiet roads that not many cars are on, so there that’s your escape. Y’all needa stop being selfish😂🤦🏾‍♂️

zekehhh · 10 months ago

That’s what the road is for😂🤦🏾‍♂️

zekehhh · 10 months ago

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